Friday, January 31, 2014

Book Review: Crochet Pink ~ 26 Patterns to Crochet for Comfort, Gratitude & Charity by Janet Rehfeldt

January 31, 2014

Crochet Pink: 26 Patterns to Crochet for Comfort, Gratitude and Charity by Janet Rehfeldt

I am honored to have been asked to review Janet’s book because its concept touches a common thread that we share. In another life, I was a registered nurse and I specialized in public health and patient education. For this reason, I am particularly interested in anything that pairs health and crochet. I also believe that the three words used in the title, “comfort, gratitude and charity,” are words that most crocheters relate to. Crochet brings us comfort; we show gratitude to the special person that taught us how; and we believe in sharing our talents by crocheting for the many charitable organizations that appreciate our beautiful contributions!

The twenty-six accessories in Crochet Pink are meant to be treasures for loved ones going through breast cancer and to be given as a show of support. Each project is done in a different shade of pink, the breast cancer awareness color; and the great variety of yarns used for the projects were chosen because they are soothing against the skin and comfortable to wear. Janet has so graciously included a list of all the “cancer awareness” colors so that crocheters affected by other types of cancer can do these same projects in alternate colors. Woven throughout the book are quotes from cancer patients and caregivers whom Janet has personally known, and they offer inspiration and guidance for continuing to move forward.

The feeling one gets from this book is that it comes from someone who is sincerely dedicated to the cause of breast cancer awareness and eradication. When I asked Janet if she had ever had a diagnosis of breast cancer or was affected by it in some way, she answered, "I am at very high risk for breast cancer along with my mother and sister; and I have been followed closely since my early thirties as a preventive measure. I have been so very lucky that so far the results of my screening exams have all come back benign. However, I have too many friends that have not been so lucky...and it breaks my heart."

Janet also shared that she has wanted to do a book like this for a  long time; and because it is a very personal issue for her, it is her way of giving back by doing something positive. "I wanted to design items that make you feel really good by either making them for yourself or for someone else who's dealing with cancer. So many people don't realize that when you are going through chemo and radiation, your skin gets so sensitive and things feel so harsh; that's why I incorporated the many skin-friendly yarns in the designs. 

Janet is a capable and talented crochet designer who has brought these exciting designs to crocheters through a unique niche: breast cancer awareness. Whether the cancer patient herself or her loved ones are crocheting in waiting rooms, everyone will enjoy the fashion forward projects done in luscious yarns such as alpaca, silk and cashmere, that just beg to be touched. I love the clever names that were chosen for the projects, such as Divine Comfort Throw, My Indoor Hat, Petals of Hope Shawl and Another Beautiful Sunrise Shawl. While crocheting, whomever is making the project will be thinking of the recipient with hope and determination that they will have a long life ahead of them, post cancer.

I like all the projects in Janet’s book but my favorites are the Pineapples in Silk Scarf, Striped Tote and Versatile Chemo Shrug. 

Pineapples in Silk Scarf
I enjoy wearing crochet most every day and I love a summer scarf. There is always a need to keep the neck warm, especially in malls and restaurants during summer time. The pineapple pattern has long been a symbol of “welcome” and “friendship” which means hope. 

Striped Tote contributed by Lorna Miser
The striped tote is unique because of its use of suede tote handles and bottom from Somerset Designs. Complete details on where to purchase these are included. 

Versatile Chemo Shrug
While wrapped in the Versatile Chemo Shrug, you’ll surely feel supported because it will feel warm like a “hug!”

Many tips and tricks of crochet are included in this book along with very detailed instructions. Besides being a source of inspiration, Crochet Pink is an excellent guide book for any crocheter who is ready to tackle learning new skills.

Next month, it will be one year since I started a “Cancer & Crochet Support Group” at my local hospital. In this volunteer effort, I have led between 8 and 10 women recovering from cancer through the steps of learning to crochet. We meet twice a month in the oncology area of the hospital, a place they are quite familiar with; and we are supported by the oncology social worker. This past year the group has made great strides as they learned crochet skills and techniques, and their enthusiasm has grown along with their skills. They have also created quite a bond. Sharing the understanding with each other about what it's like to go through cancer, no matter what type it may be, is a club no one wants to join. However, the mutual support that they share is what they treasure about  this group. I will definitely recommend Crochet Pink to them!

Recently published by Martingale Crochet Pink is in soft cover format in size 8.5" x 11".  Its 96 pages are are loaded with full color beautiful images of the projects. It is also available as an ebook for $16.99; combine the print version with the ebook for just $24.99.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

We Have a Winner: Crochet Wraps!

January 23, 2014
Thank you for the many wonderful comments and the interest in Tammy's book, Crochet Wraps Every Which Way!

From all the entries, I generated a random winner and drumroll, drumroll...Sunwyn is the winner! Congratulations, Sunwyn, and I will contact you to get your info so I can get the book on its way to you soon!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Book Review/Give-Away: Crochet Wraps Every Which Way by Tammy Hildebrand

Tuesday, January 21, 2014
As Founder of the Crochet Guild of America, I have been privileged over the last twenty years to meet talented and inspiring crocheters and designers like Tammy Hildebrand. I am honored to be a part of her blog tour and I heartily recommend her new book! Please enjoy exploring around my blog and at the many books I've reviewed. While you're at it take a look at my new book, The Fine Art of Crochet..
Crochet Wraps Every Which Way by Tammy Hildebrand

Tammy’s new addition to her long list of design accomplishments is so much more that the eighteen shawl patterns within this book. She encourages every crocheter to be the best they can be in a supportive way that gives us all courage to try anything, even the scariest of techniques we thought we could never master! When reading the introduction, one feels that Tammy is sitting nearby, cheering us on to success! Her down-to-earth approach in the Tips and Hints section is like having a crochet friend next door to get us over the stumps and humps we crocheters inevitably encounter.

Well-written text offers insight to the history of crochet up to the current renaissance that has opened a wide, wide world of internet resources. Six techniques: traditional, motifs, hairpin lace, broomstick lace, Tunisian, and double-ended crochet comprise the basis for the 18 projects in the book.  Valuable information about each technique is offered such as history, alternate names for the technique, tools to use, and insight that is only gained from years of experience.  Fashion forward tips on how to wear the finished shawls are even woven in among the instructions! Tammy’s vast knowledge from her forty years of crocheting is a gift to all of us! This book is a compendium of good information without being overwhelming.

As we have come to expect from Stackpole publications, there are ample and clear photographs of the pattern stitches and this book features one beautiful model showing several views of the finished garments. Each and every wrap in this book is truly unique, and definitely fashion-forward. The yarns chosen by Tammy are readily available; and using the suggested yarns is a great learning experience about the twists and turns of yarn and crochet. (That is if the crocheter were to make every project in the book. … and that’s not such a bad idea!) You can get an over-view of the projects with Stackpole’s Look-Book 

The Visual Index at the back of the book is a very helpful view-at-a-glance that may help you prioritize which wrap you want to make first! Because I tend to have “asymmetric taste,” my two favorite wraps are Clementine Shells  and Midnight Azaleas. 

Clementine Shells
Clementine Shells, which is on the cover, lays so beautifully in an interesting configuration around the model’s neck. I like that look!

Midnight Azaleas
Midnight Azaleas combines the best of two classic crochet methods, granny squares and ripple pattern, with fresh results in stunning colors!

In addition to all her fabulous designing, Tammy has generously volunteered for the Crochet Guild of America for years. The board of directors certainly appreciates it when members step up to help carry the load of this volunteer organization. She is currently the national Vice President, and CGOA members are looking forward to great things from Tammy in 2014 as she helps to lead our organization forward into its third decade!

Enter to win a copy of Crochet Wraps Every Which Way: click "follow by email" on this blog and submit your email address OR comment on this blog. A winner will be chosen randomly on January 23, 2014. Good luck! To continue on  blog tour to see how her book is stacking up with other bloggers, check Tammy's  Facebook page daily.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Ten Favorite Scarves of 2013

Tuesday, January 14, 2013
Not that I am wanting to recall the bitter chill of last week here in Chicago (17 below, 45 below windchill) and around the nation, but it did get me looking back.

Have you ever noticed that when you are feeling just a bit chilly inside, the addition of a scarf or cowl warms your entire body? It might be the colorful yarn, the fuzzy feel or the thought of the talented hands that made the scarf, but they seem to warm the soul as well as the body!

Here's a look back at my ten favorite scarves/cowls this year. I've included links so you can make them too!

1) Gwyneth Cable Cowl
Unique cables add a fashionable touch to office wear.

 2) Chunky Tweed Cowl
 Encircled in warmth, you'll also make a fashion statement!

3) Ringo Neckwarmer
The colors of fall "encircle" you with warmth!

1) As You Like It Cowl
Lightweight and playful as you come out of the cocoon of winter!

3) Elise Shawl
Perfect addition to an outfit for the cool spring evenings.

1) Flowers on the Garden Trellis Scarf 
The array of colors make this a versatile add-on in cool places.

2) Chain Gang Scarf 
Wear this as  you watch flowers bloom!

3) Queen Anne's Scarf
Light and delightful

1) Ruffled Interlude
Hang on to the warmth of summer a little while longer!

2) Albers Cowl 
Made with sock yarn-light and comfy as the days begin to cool.

3) Beseme
Lovely as a cowl and doubles as a wrap

Saturday, January 4, 2014

What is Free Form Crochet?

Monday, January 6, 2014
This topic came about from the title of my article recently in Fiber Art Now magazine.  "Crochet As Art: A Conversation with 5 Free-Form Crochet Artists." Yes, the 5 artists I wrote about, all of which are in  my book The Fine Art of Crochet, are free-thinking when it comes to their creativity. They are free-wheeling with the hook and use unique fibers in many cases. Once you read the article, tell me what  you think? Are these artists doing free-form crochet?

In order to define free-form crochet, we must look way, way back to it's origins: Irish crochet. A brief history of crochet, including the Irish method, written by Ruthie Marks is available through The Crochet Guild of America. Unfortunately, there are no images on the site. On her blog, Nancy Nehring has a beautiful montage of Irish Crochet in reference to a class she taught in 2013 at Lacis. I wrote an article in Old Time Crochet Magazine (Spring 1998), "History of Irish Crochet," but was unable to find it online since it was so long ago. Explore the internet and you will find loads of Irish crochet images.

Antique Irish Crochet from Gwen's collection
Back in the day, the CGOA offered tours to Ireland. I designed and led the first one in 2000. There we met Maire Treanor who has since become a frequent and popular teacher at the CGOA conferences. My local chapter brought her to do a workshop for us in 2011 and we learned so much.

Maire Treanor class project
Sylvia Cosh and James Walters were the first in modern times to share the correlation between Irish crochet and free-form crochet, declaring that Irish crochet was the original free-form!

Many members in my Northern IL chapter of CGOA have a real soft spot in our collective heart for the free-form method because many of us were privileged to study with James and Sylvia in 1995 and 1996 when they taught at the Chain Link Crochet Conferences.  In 1997 our Chapter hosted the Chain Link event in Chicago and we organized an Open House in one of the local yarn stores to introduce James and Sylvia to the community.

Sylvia is best known for her rich and exotic “moth” capes and landscape coats which may become sumptuous wall hangings; the variety of texture and miraculous subtlety of color in her work is remarkable.  By contrast, James did not crochet until he was thirty and won a nationwide design competition soon after!  “His definitive technical manual, Crochet Workshop, is the only crochet book you will ever need,” declared Threads Magazine.

Sadly, Sylvia died of ovarian cancer in 2000. but her legacy lives on in the tribute James created on their website. I treasure this brooch that Sylvia gave me after creating it with her gifted hands in my living room!

Scrumble Brooch by Sylvia Cosh
This page shows the free-form wall-hanging created by my Northern Il chapter which now hangs in the gallery that James created in Sylvia's honor..

Sylvia and James coined the term "scrumble" for the individual motifs that make up the whole of a free-form project. They compare to the tiny Irish motifs (roses, shamrocks and leaves) but are much heavier made in worsted or sport weight yarns.colorful yarns. This team coined the word scrumble for the motifs used in free-form crochet. They are also very colorful as opposed to the mostly white used in Irish crochet.

Here are some examples:

Three "Scrumbles"

For those who have never tried the free form method, it is always an inspiring and "freeing" experience.  The hardest part is letting go and convincing yourself you don't need a pattern. Once tried, crocheters go away with many ideas on color, form and texture and have a new found confidence in their own artistic abilities. 

There are no “right” or “wrong” ways of crocheting in free form crochet.  It is a way of creating shapes with the as-you-go method; a sort of “organic patchwork.”  Crochet fabric is constructed in a “free” and intuitive way, with no regular structure.  If the results are pleasing to the eye, then the results are considered successful. Like any kind of art, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

Best known in these contemporary times for their free-form crochet are Prudence Mapstone, Jenny DowdeMargaret Hubert and Myra Wood. I've been privileged to take classes from each of them at various CGOA conferences. They teach and design prolifically and their books even instruct on how to do free-form crochet. It may seem like an oxymoron to follow instructions for doing free-from crochet, but these books are invaluable tools for getting one started and offering the courage to "do your own thing" by offering many helpful tips and colorful examples.

Beadwork magazine brooch
Besides teaching free-form crochet, I've published an article in Beadwork magazine (Summer 1999) with instructions for making a free-form brooch (entitled the same). These brooches included bead-crochet as well:

My first free-form garment (1997)
The International Freeform Crochet Guild is probably the most renown and long-standing online group of free-from crochet enthusiasts. Started by Myra Wood, experts and novices alike have been working "together" across the miles since 2006. Each year they challenge themselves to create a work of art on a theme and then publish a book with everyone's work with proceeds going to a charity.

Challenge 2012: Inspired! Music & Art in Fiber,Van Gogh, "Vase with Red Poppies"

Challenge 2011: Mythologies, Stories & Fairy Tales, "Freeform Fiber Faerie"
Challenge 2010: Somewhere in My World, "Dreams Realizing"
In 2009 Prudence and Jonelle Beck wrote a book, Freeform Style, which actually gives guidance and instructions for creating specific free-form garments. I was invited to create a piece for the gallery section.
Scarf from Freeform Style by Gwen
Free-form shawl I made inspired by a class with Prudence Mapstone in 2010 at the CGOA conference
Here are some groups on Ravelry that you might enjoy exploring:
1) *Gwen's group-we're not a freeform group per se, but we're very "freeformy"
1) Russian Freeform
2) Prudence Mapstone's group
3) Jenny Dowd's group
4) *International Free form group
5) Margaret Hubert's group
*most active groups

I've given you lots to think about to answer this question, "What is free-form crochet?" Now go out and explore the resources I've provided and give it a try. I think you'll like it. Meanwhile, I think I'll go make a scrumble; just for fun!

Friday, January 3, 2014

We Have a Winner!!

Friday, January 3, 2014

I'm please to announce that the winner of a copy of my book, The Fine Art of Crochet, is Sara!
Congratulations and I will get your copy mailed to you as soon as I can get thawed out of this deep freeze we are experiencing!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Fiber Art Now Magazine

Thursday, January 2, 2013

 In 2011, Marcia Young parlayed her passion for fiber into the challenge of filling the vacuum left by the demise of Fiberarts Magazine. With Interweave Press' decision to stop publishing Fiberarts, a long-standing and excellent publication, we were left with a very sad void.

Marcia created a new and exciting product, Fiber Art Now magazine.  I'd say, clearly she has accomplished her goal: "We connect and inspire the contemporary fiber arts and textiles community by featuring the most compelling work, ideas, and craftsmanship in all of our endeavors."

I am honored to have been asked to write an article for the current (Winter 2013)issue. I wrote about my conversation with 5 of the artists, chosen by Marcia, from my book, The Fine Art of CrochetIt was a great holiday present when the magazine arrived with my  article the day after Christmas!

Fiber Art Now magazine

The magazine, in general, is filled with rich color images, interesting and unique layout and awe-inspiring articles on all aspects of fiber. The great job done on laying out my article by Marcia and her team is no exception. I am excited and proud to add this work to my portfolio. My book is as much about art as it is about crochet, so it is indeed an honor to be featured in this magazine that reaches out to the art world.

Left: Tracy Krumm, "Cavity (Strainer);" right: Yvette Kaiser Smith, "Charting;" bottom: Nathan Vincent, "Locker Room"
In "Crochet Art Art: A Conversation with 5 Free-Form Crochet Artists," we talked about 4 topics, social and collaborative art, aesthetics of crochet, history, and crochet as high art. Here are some snippets which I hope will inspire you to support art and fiber arts and the crocheters who do such incredible work; go to your nearest newsstand and purchase this issue; and comment here on your thoughts!

Social and Collaborative ArtKathleen Holmes: "Public art harkens back to the quilting bee." Nathan Vincent: "Public art works have taken crochet to the extreme which brings it into the limelight."

Aesthetics of Crochet - Yvette Kaiser Smith: "Each material and process has its own language." Tracy Krumm: "It is amazing to see how crochet has such diverse traditions in so many different cultures."

History - Andrea Uravitch: "We need to recognize art history, but there is nothing wrong with putting a spin on it." Tracy Krumm: "Life experiences inform what we do and the possibility for transformative discovery is limitless at any age and is often very personal."

Crochet as High Art - Kathleen Holmes: "The purpose of art is to move people to change their perception of the world around them" Tracy Krumm: "We are never going to shake the utilitarian history of crochet."

My only criticism of my article is the title! Yes, the artists in the article are "free;" free-thinking and free-wheeling and do not use a pattern to create their works. However, these artists do not do "free-form crochet." It is a genre unto itself and shall serve as an exciting topic for another blog post in the near future!

Let's look back in history a bit to see from where this new magazine has evolved,  My education about crochet as art came from books I collected from the 1970s, such as Design Crochet by Mark Dittrick,  The Crocheter's Art by Del Pitt Feldman,  Creative Crochet by Nikki Hitz Edson and A New Look at Crochet by Elyse and Mike Sommer. Fiberarts and Threads magazines figured heavily into my education mix as well.

Fiberart magazine, 1978 
I may have a valuable gem here with this large format, vintage Fiberarts magazine in black and white newsprint!

Fiberarts, Nov/Dec 2004 - Crocheter Soonran Youn on cover (not crochet though)
Threads magazine, Oct/Nov 1992 - Crocheter Adrienne Cruz on cover
From the very beginning, Fiber Art Now has been supportive of all of the aspects of fiber art. Crochet has been featured in almost every issue in one way or another. I so appreciate that. There is still much education to be done when it comes to getting the word out about crochet art. Besides my article, there were several other features on crochet in the Winter 2014 issue: Nora Fok
Nora Fok
Arline Fisch: knitted bracelets with crocheted edges in a jewelry article; and Gosia Niedzwiedzka:

Gosia Niedzwiedzka
No matter what kind of crochet you like to do, you are in some measure a creative artist. Crochet is so versatile and runs a very wide gamet. Crochet art is only one aspect, but a very important one. Art crochet engenders pride in we crocheters and amazes those who enjoy seeing art.

CROCHET PRIDE!!  I'm starting the New Year off right and I hope you are too!. I also got a brief but thoughtful review of the book in Interweave Crochet (Winter 2014):

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year ~ 2014!

Wednesday, December 31, 2013
Image shared from Photobucket (
My sincere wishes for a healthy, happy and fiber-filled 2014 go out today to my blog readers. Your presence here with me, along with your complimentary posts, is very much appreciated.

I hope you had a wonderful holiday no matter how you choose to celebrate. It is my wish that you felt great joy from gifting lovely crochet items that you created yourself and that, at the same time, you received some wonderful crochet gifts from dear friends! If not, you surely found some comfort and relaxation from a few stolen minutes of crocheting in a cozy spot.

In order to show my gratitude, I am gifting a copy of my newest book, The Fine Art of Crochet.
Here's how you can enter to win:

1) Click "follow" here on the blog between now and January 2 at midnight.
2) If you are already a follower, "like" my fan page on Ravelry, Cro-Kween Designs.

Remember, Valentine's Day is right around the corner, so even if you are not the winner of my book, you'll want to gift a digital copy of The Fine Art of Crochet to a dear crocheter friend. It only costs $3.03!

The Queen requests many, many more CGOA members join her here in the Kweendom. Stay tuned in 2014 for exciting news of the 20th Anniversary of CGOA. The celebration will kick off in Manchester, New Hampshire, July 23-27. It's the place to connect with old friends and get to know new ones, not to mention the exciting celebration plus classes and events! Catch the latest crochet ramblings here, as well, as they develop in 2014! I look forward to spreading my joy and passion for crochet with you!

I love dolls and enjoy making clothes for MY American Girl doll. Here's one I finished over the holiday from Nikki Epstein's Crochet for Dolls book.

Royal Princess
 I'm also sharing some photos of my real little person "dolls," Chloe and Jack. They were the highlight of our Christmas celebration.


Chloe testing her new "lipstick" on Gigi

New chair and shark slippers...comfy!

Miss Chloe and her new Minnie shirt

All those toys and it's more fun to play under the table with Auntie!